Nightclub photography

Discussion in 'Street and Documentary' started by clint_graves|1, Oct 10, 2021.

  1. What type of digital camera to use for nightclub photography or party photography and after wedding events? To be specific the parties who get to the edge of baccanalia. I do some of the photos and want to do again. I shoot a Sony hx50v and want a step up. I use a a Sony hx50v with a small flash on the hotshoe. I use the flash when the sun goes down. Also what is the best encrypted photo galleries? I look forward to your response.

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  2. I would imagine it depends a lot on whether you are participating in the party or you are there solely to document it.

    Your choice is probably great if you are participating. At wedding parties I usually see pro-grade dslr's with huge flashes bouncing off the ceiling.

    Being way past the nightclubbing age, I can't speak from personal experience but I just bought "Dressing Up, Fashion Week NYC" by Lee Friedlander.
    In that book, he photographs models, stylists and makeup artists behind the scenes of major NYC fashion shows, while strictly not a party, it bears close resemblance; fast moving action and people in close proximity to each other. He chose to use a very wide angle lens (Hasselblad SWC) and a ring flash - and the results are brilliant IMO. As a viewer of the photographs you are right there in the middle of the action and feel the tension, excitement and stress.

    His setup wasn't digital, but could easily be replicated with a 20mm lens (FF equivalent) on a digital camera and a ring flash.
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  3. I personally would suggest losing the flash. ISOs are high enough now to be able to get along without them.

    A cell-phone camera may be the least intrusive.
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  4. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    As JDM mentions, with modern digital cameras, shooting (with subject motion) without a flash has become easier. For alcohol-sprinkled party events such as post wedding and similar gatherings, I've shot always withOUT flash since about 2006: back then using a pair of EOS 5D at ISO1600/3200 and a select few fast Prime Lenses, mainly the 35/1.4L, 50/1.4 and the 85/1.8.

    Apropos 'intrusion' - this has never affected my shooting these events using a 'big' camera. My view is it is more about the Photographer's movement, demeanour and ability not to intrude, rather than the camera they carry.

    If you plan to 'step up' your gear, as it is now 2020 a smaller camera than a Full Frame DSLR would be at the top of my consideration, however three key factors would remain the same:

    > high quality, high ISO recording
    > fast lens(es)
    > good/accurate AF

    I do very few 'party' pro shoots now; for my personal photojournalism of 'party scenes' I use mainly a Fuji X100s and still sometimes a 5D later series with the 35/1.4. The Fuji X100s is a few years old and its successors are improved, not enough for me to consider upgrading though. I am content and also very comfortable shooting these events with only one Prime Lens, (35mm FoV equivalent), doing so does not float everyone's boat. If you choose a zoom lens arrangement then I suggest you seriously consider the value of having a NON-varying maximum aperture zoom.

    If you choose to use Flash, then Lens speed (maximum aperture) considerations are of little significance.

    As historic reference, this montage was shot around 2010 with a 5DMkII and 35/1.4 no flash, encompasses daytime and nighttime:


    Ten years later, the cameras in 2020 can get to ISO6400 and keep good quality. There is much from which to choose.

    I think you first need to decide if you want to be able to follow the no flash route: this must be your first choice as mostly all of the choices down the line will be dependent on that.

    Last edited: Oct 11, 2021
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  5. My biggest concern about dim clubs is getting the camera focused in a timely fashion.
    AFAIK mirrorless cameras still can't utilize AF assist beams from their tlashes. For that reason I 'd lean towards recent(ish) DSLRs for zoom lenses. - Nikon D750? / EOS 5D IV?
    But to shoot fast primes wide open I'd want MILCs with eyedetection AF. Sony A9 & A7(R) in their latest incarnations or maybe EOS R5?
    Bulk concerned I 'd love to try Leica M10.
    On a budget I might try MFT or APS C systems, focusing on low light AF performance and availability of image stabilisation.

    It would be helpful if you mentioned a budget.
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  6. In the film days, I once thought about using IR film and IR filtered flash. That would work in rooms too dark for the best available light film.

    High ISO DSLRs and MILCs work in amazingly dark rooms. VR lenses reduce the effect of camera movement but not subject movement.

    It would be interesting to do, though, with an IR modified digital cameras and IR flash.
    William Michael likes this.
  7. Not a big fan of digital, I shoot film in bars, jazz venues, and music recitals. I am satisfied using 400asa film with a variety of cameras.
    Never use flash. My only requirement being that cameras are discreet and quiet, so no SLR. An F2 lens is adequate. Success with Leicas and Olympus xa. My impression is that digital can transform dim scene to brighter, but I prefer the picture reflect the environment.
    The digital cameras my friends use and what I see an the street are just too big, usually with gigantic zoom lens. Hardly discreet.
  8. I hardly ever used flash in the old, film days. Of course (coarse?), all my 'dark side' images were grainy and fuzzy, but I'm easy.

    Athens Plaka Taverna
    Nikkor 55mm f/2, GAF 500 slide film
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  9. If they are playing rock turned up to 11, then a noisy camera probably doesn't matter.
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  10. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Interesting comments. I am definitely in the camp of suggesting the OP not use Flash.

    I bought the X100s, for a few main reasons, two were - it is small and also very quiet. Certainly my X100s F/2 lens is fast enough. Though I do typically use around ISO1600 and not ISO 400; though ISO400 neg film does have a latitude which digital does not have, and which I'd expect you'd exploit.

    Certainly a digital file can be Post Produced to render a scene 'bright' and thus not transfer a mood which existed in situ: but I think that is a Photographer/Digital Darkroom issue, not an issue of the digital capture and digital media per se. I think that excessive or unnatural 'brightness' or 'brightening' is often a result of the digital file being underexposed - which comes back to the topic of latitude, which neg film generally has and digital doesn't.

  11. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    ah hah - and... if they are at "the edge of baccanalia". (REF: OP), then the noise of the camera or the size of it probably doesn't matter, either.

  12. I like to change the subject when it comes to tailgate parties and gatherings. On day games are a flash useful and at night what type of flash?
  13. I'd start with a bigger hotshoe flash with fully articulated head supporting my camera of choice's TTL and also providing an AF assist beam. Yongnuo offer cheap ones for various systems. Otherwise get the strongest proprietary ones. Adding a bounce card, L-bracket and ring-light modifier can make sense.
    On a next level you could place those (i.e. 2 or 4) on lightstands and control them wirelessly with a remote in your hotshoe. Learning involved! or book "Light Science and Magic" + trial & error...
    Fillflash by day can be useful.
    Some folks hold their flash an arm's length away for every picture, when shooting people.

    Warning! Flashes aren't as "plug & play" as advertised. They might need an exposure compensation dialed in. Your camera might choose non ideal aperture and ISO settings in P mode. TTL autoexposure can get fooled.

    Since a lot of "no flash" got mentioned above: Yes, it is an option but a conservative approach is to take grain- or noise free bread shots depicting your subjects within DOF with flash before you get artsy or Lomographic spraying and praying in available darkness. Your current camera generates a lot of DOF, even wide open. With a bigger sensor you 'll sometimes frame 3 people without getting one of them perfectly into focus.

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